Special Category Visa

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A Special Category Visa is a type of Australian visa granted to most New Zealand citizens on arrival in Australia. New Zealand Citizens may then reside in Australia indefinitely under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement.


The Special Category Visa was introduced on 1 September 1994 by the Migration Regulations 1994. It is known as a subclass 444 visa. Prior to 1 September 1994, New Zealanders were generally treated as exempt non citizens in Australia.

Most New Zealanders are eligible for a Special Category Visa (SCV) except:

  • those with significant health problems or criminal records
  • those who hold temporary or permanent Australian visas
  • those who arrive in Australia using another passport (e.g. if holding dual nationality). In this case an SCV can be obtained at a Department of Immigration office in Australia upon production of a valid New Zealand passport
  • those who arrive for specified purposes, such as diplomats and visiting forces, who are normally granted a special purpose visa.


The SCV is granted upon arrival to Australia. Unlike other non-citizens, New Zealanders do not require a visa before travelling to Australia. New Zealanders arriving in Australia are not told they have a visa and ordinarily their passports are not stamped. The SCV ceases when its holder departs Australia for any reason, but a new SCV is granted on return.

The SCV is technically classified as a temporary visa, despite its holders residence in Australia not being subject to any limitation as to time imposed by law.

Until 26 February 2001, SCV holders were generally treated the same as permanent visa holders. Beginning in 2001, Australia has introduced a number of laws that have dramatically changed the rights of SCV holders. Now, individuals who enter Australia after 2001 remain in Australia to live and work indefinitely, but cannot access social security benefits on this visa.

Permanent Resident status[edit]

SCV holders fit the commonly understood meaning of the term 'permanent resident' as they are entitled to live in Australia indefinitely, in much the same way as an Australian citizen or a permanent visa holder. However, they are excluded from definitions of this term in some Australian legislation.

Even in federal migration and citizenship law, there is no standard definition of the term and SCV holders are treated inconsistently.

Section 204 of the Migration Act 1958 includes all SCV holders within the definition of 'permanent resident' on the basis they 'not subject to any limitation as to time imposed by law'.

The Migration Regulations 1994 exclude all SCV holders from the definition of 'Australian permanent resident', including only permanent visa holders within the definition.

The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 empowers the relevant minister to declare by legislative instrument whether SCV holders are permanent residents for the purpose of the act. The current legislative instrument includes some SCV holders, while excluding others.

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